I visited my neighborhood Borders yesterday for some hands on time with the Kobo eBook reader. I was impressed by its really slim design and its responsiveness, a good buy at $99. After that I did my usual perusal of the manga section, looking for new volumes in series I follow and any other new titles that might be promising.

In particular, I was looking for Neon Genesis Evangelion: Campus Apocalypse Volume 2. I’d bought volume 1 there a few weeks ago and saw online that volume 2 had actually been out a while. I was a bit annoyed to see that volume 2 was still not there. I resigned myself to the likelihood I would have to order it online and went home.

Later I learned that Diamond Book Distributors had put all shipments to Borders on hold.  I’d already heard that Borders was negotiating with publishers to delay payment to them while they seek new financing. But this was the first I’d heard of shipments being stopped. Diamond distributes books for a number of manga publishers, including Dark Horse, the U.S. publisher of the manga I was looking for.

This situation leaves me no other choice than the online option for new manga. There aren’t any other bookstores nearby that carry new manga. If Borders goes under, it’s going to be a lot harder to find manga at retail. Fewer bookstores will make it more difficult for all publishers to sell books profitably.

I think the shrinking number of bookstores is already a factor driving the adoption of eBooks. Graphic novels have been slower to come to the medium, in part due to their use of color. But manga are mostly black and white, they generally translate to eBook form very well. If shipments of most manga to Borders have already stopped, then perhaps we will see an accelerated move to the eBook format.

The situation for manga is further complicated by the very strong reluctance of Japanese publishers to embrace digital media. But the growth of iPad app versions of popular manga would indicate that they are changing their stance. And declining manga sales in Japan has increased the importance of sales outside of the country. A Borders collapse in the U.S. would be a big problem for Japanese manga publishers who are already facing the challenge of widely circulating illegal scans of their titles on the internet. Some of these scans have even been packaged up and sold in the Apple App Store!

In the end, the threat of piracy on one side and the collapse of a major bookseller on the other, will lead to more eBook manga. At this point, there’s no going back.